Jane Rabnett (Cox) - BSA Secretary & Librarian 1950-1975

Jane Rabnett (1914 – 2001) was Secretary of the British School at Athens for 25 years from 1950 – 1975 and was an institution at the School. She was BSA Secretary during the time of five Directors, including Hector Catling, John Cook and Sinclair Hood and during the Junta and its fall in 1974.

Rabnett was born in Birmingham England, and as a teenager she dispensed medication for her father who was a local doctor. She was 25 when WWII broke out (she got married the day war was declared) and she worked for the charity Knights of Columbus during the war and as Assistant-Governor in a girls’ borstal school shortly following it. At the outbreak of the war she had married Arthur Rabnett, an RAF fighter pilot but on his return he suffered severe post traumatic stress which caused him to be unable to continue the marriage.

Unable to divorce because she was Roman Catholic, Rabnett made her way in life alone from this point on, while her husband was committed to care. She arrived in Athens in 1950 to help her sister in the diplomatic community and fell in love with it. She obtained a job at the British School at Athens (after promising to learn Greek) where she stayed as Secretary and Librarian until her retirement. Rabnett was awarded an MBE in 1974 for her services to the School.

After Rabnett retired from the British School at Athens, she lived the rest of her life in her house in the Venetian Castle in Naxos, where she became a pivotal member of the local and foreign communities. Her house became a magnet for visiting scholars, artists, archaeologists and writers and she continued to keep a close relationship with the British School, which she visited regularly to attend functions and lectures.

Rabnett was an important lynch-pin at the BSA during its re-emergence following World War II and the technological and social changes that developed in the later 20th century. Her career exemplified the lives of many women of her time who, although without easy access to university education, nevertheless achieved great respect from leading scholars, diplomats and writers.

I met Jane Rabnett in 1988 when I was 6 years old and lived for a time with my family on Naxos. I remember her house, her help and kindness and her no-nonsense attitude and commitment to local social issues. Jane was my very first connection to the BSA, which has grown over the years.

Artist’s Note: My memories of Jane are quite fragmented (as I was only 6 years old at the time) but going by the photos provided by the BSA archive and what my mother tells me of Jane’s personality, I carefully pieced together this LEGO portrait, giving her a sense of simplicity, dry wit, and a no-nonsense, hardworking attitude.